Bellator and Rizin are starting to get comfortable working together, it seems.
That means co-promoted events between the two organizations, like Bellator X Rizin 2 set for July 30 in Japan, could become more frequent. In fact, Bellator president Scott Coker thinks they should be a regular thing.
Coker long has been a supporter of Japanese MMA and combat sports and has been a frequent traveler there during his extensive and lengthy career in martial arts. So it’s no surprise he’ll jump at opportunities to keep Bellator involved there, and particularly when he can work with Rizin head Nobuyuki Sakakibara, who was at the helm for PRIDE when it was sold to the UFC in 2007.
“When I think of mixed martial arts, I always think about Japan,” Coker said. “This really was the mecca. When I was growing up as a promoter, all the eyes were on Japan. All the best fighters in the world fought here. One day, I said I’m going to go there and we’re going to do some work together when I get into the mixed martial arts business. So when Sakakibara came back (to Rizin), I was really excited because we can do things like we’re going to do on July 30 – something that has never been done before where two organizations are getting together to create one show for the fans that really will be spectacular. I really feel this should be the future of mixed martial arts fighting.”
Photos: Bellator X Rizin 2 press conference, faceoffs from Japan
Scott Coker bullish on Bellator's future in Japan
Bellator X Rizin 2 to feature AJ McKee vs. Patricky Freire, Kyoji Horiguchi in inaugural men's flyweight title fight
At Bellator X Rizin 2, a Bellator event will include a lightweight grand prix quarterfinal headliner in Bellator’s regular cage and an inaugural flyweight title fight. But Rizin will have its own fights, too, that will take place in its standard ring. Some Bellator fighters, like Juan Archuleta, will fight under the Rizin banner. Some Rizin fighters will fight for Bellator.
In 2015 in San Jose, Calif., Bellator partnered with Glory Kickboxing for a show that had a cage and ring in the same arena – and also had four fights that went on simultaneously in both enclosures.
Sakakibara said his working relationship with Coker is one that is built on support rather than rivalry, which allows the collaborations to happen.
“Last year, we were able to do a promotion vs. promotion event on New Year’s Eve with the help of Scott Coker, who understands and values the Japanese mixed martial arts scene very much,” Sakakibara said. “In a world where people talk trash amongst each other, we were able to cooperate and have a productive event. We have been in this business for 30 years now and we’ve been able to build.
“We have something different and special for you all this year. With Bellator and Scott Coker’s help, with Scott Coker’s love and passion for this community, we will be able to combine two events into one. … It will guarantee you an extravaganza – something very unique. So from this point on, myself and all the staff will be on hands on deck to finalize and promote this event to be the biggest summer event in Japan.”
Coker echoed Sakakibara’s thoughts on the power of co-promotion.
“I want to thank Nobuyuki Sakakibara for allowing us to come here and be part of this,” Coker said. “He really doesn’t have to. He’s been a great leader. I would arguably say he’ll go down as one of the greatest fight promoters of all time. He’s been a great mentor for me, even though he doesn’t know it, so any chance I get to come here to work with him, I always say yes. We have been planning this event for the last four months, and we’re truly going to deliver something spectacular.”